December 8, 1925 – May 16, 1990
“Being a star made it possible for me to get insulted in places where the average Negro could never hope to go and get insulted.”
He was great. He was fine. He was talented. He lost an eye in the 50’s, in a car crash. He was a member of The Rat Pack and ate shit whenever Frank Sinatra wanted to make a “Spook” joke, which was wayyyy too often. He was also great friends with James Dean.
In September of 1989, Sammy was diagnosed with throat cancer. He was given radiation treatment. His last performance was at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe, the night before his first radiation treatment. It was thought that the cancer was under control, until February of the next year.
Realizing that Sammy wasn’t going to be around much longer, a television special was planned. 26 entertainers had a two-and-a-half-hour tribute to Sammy, which he attended. At the end of it (it aired Feb 4), Sammy got up, did not speak, and did a little soft-shoe to a standing ovation.
Later that month, Sammy’s health was deteriorated rapidly. He entered Cedars Sinai Medical Center because the cancer had returned. On the 13th of March, Sammy went home to die. One report stated that Davis had dwindled to a mere 60 pounds and was in the fetal position. Seriously though, he probably didn’t way much more than that at his peak.
Frank Sinatra visited the hospital and according to the National Enquirer (and why would they make this up?),
“A softball size tumor stuck out of Sammy’s neck, giving off a horrible odor.
The sight devastated Sinatra.” Yech.
Sammy’s home in Beverly Hills
The deathwatch was on. Reporters gathered at the house, waiting for the inevitable news.
Sammy died on Wednesday May 16th, in his home. He was 64 years old.
By the time they removed Sammy’s body from his home, hundreds of people lined the streets. That night, the lights on the Vegas strip were dimmed for 10 minutes.
It was decided that his funeral would be open to the public, and on Friday morning, 400 tickets were given to those that got to Forest Lawn early enough. People started lining up at 6am. I was really upset. At this time, I was living in Chicago, and I was coincidentally going to be in LA on that day, but not till later that afternoon. Bum me out. I missed one of the coolest funerals.
It was an open casket. I heard a report that some photographer took pics, and she found out, Shirley MacLaine phoned him up to tell him that Sinatra was going to have him killed if he didn’t hand over the negatives. Dat red-headed dame. The photographer handed them over. Shit.
His memorial program:
His funeral was held on Friday, at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. 1200 people jammed the church, and hundreds more were outside. “I’ve Got To Be Me” was played on the loudspeaker, and the crowd cheered. The service lasted for 90 minutes. Rev. Jesse L. Jackson eulogized him. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby were honorary pallbearers. Other guests included Gregory Hines, Liza with a Z, Stevie Wonder, Carroll O’Connor, Ben Vereen, Billy Crystal, Tony Danza, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, Angie Suck My Dickinson, Robert Guillaume, Ricardo Montalban and Burt Reynolds.
From Findadeath friend Ruth: Sammy was an old, dear friend of mine, and I was one of the people invited to the private viewing. While Sam was decked out in a fine pinstripe suit, red tie and handkerchief.
Sam gave away most of his jewelry to people he cared about in the months before his death. According to his right hand man, Brian Dellow, one particular item he kept– saying “this goes in the box with me.” it was the watch that Frank Sinatra had given to him much earlier.
From Findadeath friend Mike Crew: Mr. Davis was supposed to be buried with approximately $70,000 in jewelry on him.
Sammy was buried in the Davis family plot at Forest Lawn Glendale.
After the service, everyone (well, the stars) went back to Sammy’s house for punch and cookies.
Okay, so I didn’t get to the funeral, but I did get in to the Garden of Honor, where Sammy is planted, the very next day. Here is the wall of flowers that were still there, and here is Sammy’s fresh grave, still covered in flowers.
The headstone was installed.
Did you know that Sammy was a devil worshipper? Button pushed.
Not really. The story is either:
1. He did it to get laid
2. Research for a movie
3. It was the 60’s.
He did star in a movie called Poor Devil.
UPDATE September 2020:
Back to the Satan thing and Manson victim Jay Sebring. In Sammy’s biography, it’s written that Sammy was indeed a Satanist.
Sammy was going through a rough time and started to do more research into different types of religions and faiths. This is from the book Gonna Do Great Things by author Gary Fishall
He ran into some actors he knew, and one of them invited him to go with them to a party. When e got to the bash, he found that all the guests were wearing hoods or masks and each of them sported a single red-painted fingernail. Spying a naked woman chained to an altar decked out in red velvet, Sammy asked what was going on and was told the guests were members of a Satanic coven. He wasn’t impressed. As he put it, “I read enough about it to know that they weren’t Satanists, they were bullshit artists and they found an exotic way they could ball each other and have an orgy. And get stoned. It was all fun and games and dungeons and dragons and debauchery and as long as the chick was happy and wasn’t really going to get anything sharper than a dildo stuck into her, I wasn’t going to walk away from it.” Later, one of the guests lifted his hood and revealed himself to Sammy. It was Jay Sebring, his hairstylist. Davis wasn’t surprised. “I’d always known Jay was a little weird,” he said.
In August 1969, while Sammy was still in London, actress Sharon Tate was murdered by members of the Charles Manson cult in Beverly Hills. Davis knew Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski. Among the other victims was his hairdresser and one-time fellow Satanist, Jay Sebring.
Did he dude dabble? Apparently.
I just finished Linda Lovelace’s biography, ORDEAL.
It’s well known that Linda’s husband Chuck Traynor was an abusive asshole of epic proportion. Chuck was all over Sammy Davis Jr. because of his fame and money. He, Linda, Sammy and Altovise became friends and “swingers” together.
Sammy thought it would be fun to blow Chuck and Linda knew that Chuck would never go for it, so she played a gag on him. Get it?
While the four of them watched a porn film in Sammy’s private theater, Linda devised the plan. She would go down on Chuck, and Sammy would slip in and take over the blow job. Chuck discovered the switcheroo and flipped coz Sammy was a dude. The act didn’t complete and Sammy went back to banging Linda. Great story, fascinating and sad book.
After the funeral, Sammy’s wife Altovise went through all kinds of financial troubles with the estate. The Samster, when buried, was FESTOOONED with valuable jewelry. It cost her over $400, but she dug that shit up. Here come ‘da Judge.
Trivia: TV star Sherman Hemsley (George Jefferson) says that he was rescued from the grip of a suicidal depression by the ghost of Sammy.
Trivia from Kevin Hassell: Frank Sinatra gave Sammy’s widow, Altovise Davis, a million dollars in cash after he died.
There was an auction held for Sammy’s estate after his death, and Jason Priestley bought a pair of Sammy’s cufflinks.
UPDATE February 2005, from Findadeath friend James:
I was watching an old episode of Charlie’s Angels, which guest starred Sammy as himself, and a look-a-like that had been kidnapped. The house they used as Sammy’s was his real house, I recognized it from the photos on your site. From the looks of it they also used his real house to film the interiors, it looked very nice inside.
So ya wanna see his mailbox?
2020 This might keep you busy for a little while. Sammy’s address book was auctioned off: